Private Sector Partnerships Key to Managing Risks

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff addressed business leaders at the Center for Catastrophic Preparedness and Response International Center for Enterprise Preparedness at New York University on April 26, telling them, "We must calibrate an approach to security that incorporates prevention and protection into our lives in a way that respects our liberty and our privacy, and fosters our prosperity."

Chertoff noted that the ultimate goal is to incorporate security measures into the lives of Americans until they are a comfortable, convenient part of the daily routine. Americans cannot "shut down, board up, wall in or become a fortress. Because what we are trying to protect – and at the same time, preserve – is not only our lives, but also our way of life. That's why we need to adopt a risk-based approach in both our operations and our philosophy," he said.

"Risk management can guide our decision-making as we examine how we can best organize to prevent, protect against, respond and recover from an attack," Chertoff added.

For that reason, the Department of Homeland Security is working with state, local, and private sector partners on a National Preparedness Plan to target resources where the risk is greatest.

He pointed out that business leaders also manage risk and take precautions, weighing the risks of a particular action, conducting cost-benefit analysis, and factoring the risks and cost-benefits into decisions. According to Chertoff, risk-management means developing plans and allocating resources in a way that balances security and freedom when calculating risks and implementing protections. He said he believes the most effective way to apply a risk-based approach is by using the trio of threat, vulnerability and consequence as a general model for assessing risk and deciding on the protective measures we undertake.

"So how do we implement this strategy?" he asked.

An important first step is to examine the mission and the work of all elements of the Department of Homeland Security to measure its effectiveness, where it has fallen short, and where it needs to improve.

To that end, last month Chertoff initiated a comprehensive review of DHS. "We want to develop a strategy for how we can better integrate our functions at the federal level, and work more effectively with our partners in government, the private sector, and the international community to achieve our common security objectives," he said.

The department's full value, he noted, "lies not in its individual assets, but in the vast network of contacts and partners" that it has across the country – from our state and local government officials, to the private sector, to the first responder and emergency management community, to academic institutions, and all the way down to the individual citizen that goes to Ready.gov and prepares a family emergency kit.

Its" partners must bear a part of the security burden as well as become part of the security solution. We want to create a security environment that works with the grain of commerce and business, and not against it," said Chertoff.

He cited programs such as Free and Secure Trade (FAST), which keep commerce flowing smoothly and efficiently across land borders by allowing pre-screened, low-risk cargo to enter the country through expedited travel lanes as one way the federal government is working with the private sector to enhance security. Another example, he said, is the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. Companies that enroll in that program voluntarily agree to tighten security in exchange for expedited processing and inspection at ports and border crossings.

"These programs are based on a trade off," said Chertoff. "Many companies have realized cost savings as a result of faster in-transit times and reduced fuel consumption, in addition to secondary security benefits such as a reduction in theft and piracy."

Chertoff said it's imperative that members of the business community put security in a position of prominence. "As members of the private sector, you are more than a partner in the war on terror. You are an essential building block in the foundation of America. And we need you to continue to fight alongside us with the same steadfast determination that you have shown so far."

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